The Garage, London
December 8, 2010
Long before he cleared the air/dished the dirt (whichever way you look at it), on his band mates in his autobiography Black Postcards, it was widely known there would never be a proper Galaxie 500 reunion. In the intervening years since their disbandment in 1991, both Dean Wareham and the unit known as Damon and Naomi have gone their separate musical ways to moderate degrees of success. With Wareham’s post G500 outfit Luna winding up in 2005, he’d now put to pasture two bands and presumably allowing him time to reflect on past glories with a renewed desire to not let that youth go to waste.
Billed as ‘Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500’, this wasn’t to be a solo show but a full-band exercise, raising the initial trio to a quartet which included wife Britta Phillips as the Naomi Yang stand-in on bass and vocals. Through the opening brace of songs, “Flowers”, “Pictures”, “Temperatures Rising”, nostalgia freaks cheered and first-timers stood transfixed (talking about myself here) as these familiar songs came to life. Few bands can turn the same handful of chords into three albums worth of songs, yet Galaxie 500 did this imperceptibly well, mining those chords into fragile diamonds that decades later hadn’t lost their sparkle.
Wareham remained quiet until the middle of the set before setting up an LSD double-play, explaining the eerie gloom of “Decomposing Trees” came from taking acid and digging through mud in a creek bed, and then comedically prefacing “Strange” with a deadpan “and this is about the time I took acid and went to the 7/11”. Suddenly Wareham’s elliptical lyricism revealed itself and mundane lines like “I stood in line and ate my twinkies” made perfect sense. Song after song, the playing was flawless, Wareham’s high-pitched vocals occasionally wavered but still rang true. The past was brought into the present with a dedication to recently imprisoned wiki-leaker Julian Assagne, bunking down somewhere in a London jail. There were no dedications to his ex-band mates.
The mood was celebratory and deserving. Galaxie 500 were a rare breed of band that sounded unlike anything of the time and have influenced countless bands since, so it was apt that their set was littered (particularly towards the end) with more than a handful of influential covers. A centrepiece of their original live shows, a transcendent run through Jonathan Richman’s adolescent anthem “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” became one of the set highlights, as too acquiescing to the repeated calls for The Rutle’s “Cheese And Onions”. With Phillip’s handling Yoko Ono’s hymnal “Listen, The Snow Is Falling” and a final encore of New Order’s “Ceremony”, it felt like a Galaxie 500 show might’ve once felt and that’s about as good as it’ll ever get.